Networking for Dummies: 7 Tips from Skylight’s Scott Trent

The old expression “you only have one chance at a first impression” can rattle any aspiring business professional, especially those in the financial services industry. Sure, a nifty business card and a strong handshake can help, but how do you successfully utilize personal networking skills to get ahead?

To answer this question, we sat down with one of our financial planners, Scott Trent. Scott has nearly two decades of experience in financial services and has previously taken on agency leadership roles where he has coached and developed aspiring advisors. Alongside Scott, we compiled a list of 7 tips for acing your next networking event. Check it out below:

Tip #1: Begin with the end in mind

“If you are trying to meet the right people but you fumble through the interaction, people are going to write you off before they even understand what you can offer,” said Scott.

Having a game plan and understanding the end goal of a networking interaction empowers you to steer the conversation with clarity and confidence.

Tip #2: Quality over quantity

Let’s say you are at a networking event. You are trying to make the biggest splash possible to improve your network, so you jump frantically from booth to booth to make sure you have met every soul in the building…is this an effective strategy? Absolutely not.

“Having 5 meaningful conversations will always be a more successful approach than handing out 50 business cards indiscriminately,” says Scott.

Tip #3: Most of the work is in the preparation—do your research!

When it comes to networking at any capacity, knowledge truly is power. Doing your research before making the approach helps you radiate poise and credibility to a new business affiliate.

Scott recommends allowing yourself to go down rabbit holes of information. “Let’s say you are attending a networking event—what organization helps to put it on? Who is on the board of the organization? What kind of professionals should I be expecting to see at this event? Educating yourself on these questions equips you with the tools necessary to prepare to make an impact.”

Tip #4: Perfect your “30 Second Commercial”

The 30 second commercial is your first—sometimes, only—chance to capture the attention of an individual at a networking event, and to really nail it you’re going to need a ton of practice.

“Practice your commercial with one of your co-workers. Workshop the wording with a mentor. Pitch it to friends at a party. It is much better to be vulnerable with a peer then to lose out on a connection with a potential connection” says Scott. “The last thing you want to come off as is ill-prepared!”

Tip #5: Look the part

There is real science behind dressing for success. Your attire is an instant form of communication that needs to say, “I am a professional.”

“It’s important to be memorable, but not obnoxious” says Scott. “There is a lot of power in the way you present yourself. You’ll hardly ever see me conducting business without a suit, tie, and a pocket square.”

Tip #6: Follow up, follow up, & follow up

Staying top of mind with prospective connections is vital to maintaining a network.  To really cement your interaction with a person and keep the door open for future business, following up goes a long way.

“Use any resource at your disposal, this is where LinkedIn becomes incredibly useful. Always connect with people within 48 hours of your initial interaction” comments Scott.

Tip #7: Persistence is the secret sauce

“For anyone looking to grow their practice in the financial services industry networking can sometimes be discouraging, but never lose sight of the reason you are putting the work in. When you are new to an industry like this you must hit a lot of networking events before you start seeing the payoff. Be bold and persistent when meeting new people and the success will start coming your way” said Scott.

Thanks Scott!